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World - Reuters
Bangladesh Cinema Bombs Kill 15, Wound Nearly 300
Sat Dec 7, 3:29 PM ET
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DHAKA (Reuters) - A series of near-simultaneous bomb blasts at four Bangladesh cinemas packed with families celebrating the end of the Ramadan Muslim fasting month killed 15 people on Saturday and wounded nearly 300, police said.

Photo
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Reuters
Slideshow Slideshow: Bangladesh Movie Theater Bombings

The bombs went off at movie theaters in and around the normally quiet tourist town of Mymenshingh, 95 miles north of the capital, at 6 p.m. About 50 of the wounded were in critical condition, doctors said.

Home Minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury said the attacks could be the work of Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s al Qaeda network or another terrorist group and ordered a national security alert.

"Police suspect al Qaeda or any other terror groups are behind the bomb blasts," Chowdhury told Reuters. Al Qaeda is Washington's prime suspect in last year's September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Chowdhury said political opponents also might have been behind the explosions in a bid to try to destabilize the government.

"We are trying to find out who are actually involved in these cruel acts," he said. "The government has ordered a security alert all over the country to prevent any such attempts of terror acts."

The theaters were full of nearly 2,000 men, women and children celebrating the Eid al-Fitr festival that concludes Ramadan, police said.

Doctors said many of the wounded had lost limbs.

"There have been seriously injured people admitted into hospitals. Police have launched an immediate investigation," an officer told Reuters.

'NOT SURE' IF SUICIDE BOMBERS

"We are not sure whether the bombs were planted earlier or exploded by suicide bombers," another police officer said.

"Rubble and debris filled the floors of the damaged cinema halls," a witness said by telephone.

Weeping relatives of victims thronged Mymenshingh Medical College Hospital to identify the bodies. "I don't know how long I will have to wait to get the body of my son," a man said.

Police said no one had yet claimed responsibility and no foreigners were among the dead.

"We have now recovered 14 bodies from the cinemas. The number of deaths may rise," police inspector Abu Taleb told Reuters by telephone. Doctors said another victim died at a hospital.

Police arrested five people in the area of the cinemas. Troops have cordoned off the debris, witnesses said.

In September, bombs wounded 30 people at a circus in southwestern Satkhira. At least 22 people were killed and more than 100 injured in a bombing at a local office of the then- ruling Awami League in June 2001.

At least nine people were killed and 50 injured in a bomb blast during an open-air concert in 2000. Most of the attacks were blamed on local criminal or political extremist groups.

But recent attacks in Asia, including the October 12 Bali bombings, have been attributed to Muslim extremists and aimed at western targets.

The Hindustan Times of India quoted an intelligence report last month as saying that Bangladesh, India's eastern neighbor, had become a haven for al Qaeda and that Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri, a top deputy of bin Laden, had been in Bangladesh since September. Dhaka dismissed that report.

Last month Bangladesh said it was investigating reports of 99 camps belonging to Indian rebel groups operating on its soil.

"A list of 99 camps of rebel groups from India's northeastern states, as alleged by Indian authorities, is being investigated," Foreign Secretary Shamsher M. Chowdhury said.

Bangladesh has always denied the presence of Indian rebel groups on its territory.

India and Bangladesh share a 2,500-mile border, a region where smuggling and other illegal activities are common. Mymenshingh is 25 miles away.


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